This flexitarian dish is so versatile and is perfect for beating the last of the winter blues.
Okay, so this isn’t strictly a carbonara per se, but during the cold months, why not try warming up with my delicious and creamy pumpkin “carbonara”, which is completely adaptable as a flexitarian meal, the new term for those adopting a part vegetarian lifestyle. This means my recipe is suitable for omnivores, vegetarians and vegans with a few simple ingredient swaps. Delicious!
One year, I grew a couple of giant pumpkins so we could carve them for Hallowe’en. The trouble was, they were so big that, even after making a jumbo pumpkin risotto to feed a small army with the carved eyes, teeth and a hole for the candles, we still had the remains of the displayed pumpkins. Not one to waste food, I took the carcasses home and battled with them, preparing them for the freezer for later use. I wasn’t sure how I was going to use up several kilos of pumpkin, but I remembered back to my childhood when I would make my ‘posh’ spaghetti hoops by combining freshly cooked spaghetti with a tin of cream of tomato soup. So why wouldn’t it work with pumpkin?
I worked on the theory that I would need a really thick pumpkin soup to stir the pasta into. When my first version of this dish finally pulled together, it was so satisfying, and notably, it was what I refer to as a flexitarian dish: something I can easily adapt for my vegetarian and vegan friends. And seeing as we were just talking about reducing meat intake in last months blog, I thought, why not share one of my recipes with you.
- 2tbs vegetable oil
- 1 medium white onion, finely dices
- 1 clove garlic, crushed or finely chopped
- 800g butternut squash or edible pumpkin, skin removed and cut into 1cm cubes
- 2tsp vegetable stock
- 400ml water
- 20g butter
- 1 packet of fresh sage (approx 20g), roughly chopped
- 1 slice of good quality bread (I have used Pain de Campagne, but ciabatta or sourdough would work well), crusts removed and finely diced
- 300g wholewheat or gluten-free spaghetti
- Parmesan to serve
- In a large pan, heat the oil and gently fry the onion till translucent (around 5 minutes). Add the garlic and butternut squash and cook for a further 5 minutes till slightly soft. Add the vegetable stock and water, bring to the boil and allow to simmer with a lid on for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- In the meantime, heat a large pan of water and salt generously. Cook the pasta for 2 minutes less than the packet instructions. Reserve a cup of cooking water for later.
- Once the squash mixture is soft, blend with a hand blender till smooth and silky. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- In a separate frying pan, add the butter, bread and sage and gently fry for 2 minutes till the croutons become golden brown and crisp.
- Combine the cooked pasta with the squash puree and let it down with the reserved cooking water if required and cook over a low heat for a further 2 minutes. The sauce should stick to the pasta and coat it evenly. Add more reserved pasta water if required.
- Serve the pasta in individual bowls and scatter with the sage croutons and grated parmesan.
Satisfy meat eaters with the substitution of 100g smoked pancetta instead of the bread and butter, which is a delicious pairing with sage. Fry as before with the sage, but allow the natural fat to render from the pancetta rather than adding any extra oil.
Make this dish vegan by using a vegan friendly vegetable stock, use olive oil instead of butter and using a vegan parmesan-style substitute as a garnish at the end.
Make this dish suitable for a gluten free diet by substituting the pasta for a gluten free pasta, and choose a gluten free bread to make the crispy croutons.